The expanded access to medical care provided by the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the aging American population are increasing the strain on the country’s medical system. To answer this growing need, virtual emergency room care has been implemented to provide treatment for minor medical problems. While this sounds like a good solution, does the technique really work?
What Are Virtual Emergency Rooms?
Virtual emergency utilizes today’s technology to enable communication between patients and medical professionals. Anyone with a computer, high-speed Internet connection and web camera can have a face-to-face interaction with a qualified medical physician to discuss their healthcare needs. These virtual ERs only treat minor health conditions. However, they can provide needed encouragement to see an in-person physician for those with more complex medical needs.
What Conditions Can Virtual ERs Treat?
Some are skeptical about the effectiveness of virtual emergency room visits since it could be difficult to assess the patient if the doctor isn’t actually in the room. However, there are plenty of ailments and conditions that can be effectively resolved with a little communication and assessment—a full physical is not necessary. These online medical service providers can treat a number of minor conditions that are commonly seen in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices every day, including:
- Arthritis pain
- Colds and flu
- Sprains and strains
- Insect bites
- Sore throats
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Skin inflammations
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Other non-emergency problems
Benefits of Virtual Emergency Room Care
Although there are some nay-sayers, the virtual emergency room is gaining in popularity because of its many benefits. First, one of the biggest benefits is the increased number of patients that a doctor can see during a given day. Emergency rooms are known for their excruciating wait times and backup, so increasing the number of patients who can be treated is a huge stride for the medical field. Secondly, with the widespread use and availability of the Internet, virtual visits are making healthcare more widely available since the Internet expands its range. Lastly, this form of care generally costs less for the patient as well as the clinic—something that attracts many people to the idea. These are only a few of the benefits, but the positive aspects continue to grow as this technology adapts and develops further.
Limitations of Virtual Emergency Room Care
While there are many benefits to this method, there are also drawbacks and limits to consider. Online emergency room care cannot treat conditions that require ongoing care or careful medical monitoring. The virtual emergency room medical professional is limited in that it can only rely on the reporting of symptoms by the patient. It cannot see the patient’s demeanor, energy level and other signs that normally indicate the severity of an illness. The physician is unable to palpate areas of the body or accurately judge the degree of discomfort the patient is experiencing. These services cannot treat broken bones, cuts, fainting or other care that requires thorough diagnosis. Virtual emergency rooms cannot order testing. For these services, you will require an in-person medical professional. Virtual emergency rooms will only provide care for conditions the medical personnel are comfortable treating. They can, however, provide advice to direct patients to in-person care. These online services generally accept only debit or credit cards and cannot be billed to your insurance.
With the growing need for medical care in the society, virtual emergency room care has the ability to treat minor disorders to free up facilities and personnel for more serious medical problems. Although there are fans both for and against this method, telemedicine will only continue to develop, change, and advance—and is likely here to stay. The information for this article was provided by the professionals of 911 Industrial Response Inc., who provide industrial paramedic services.